Saturday, June 14, 2008

Forgive Me Santa Maria in Trestevere

On Friday, Mike, Mia, Hillary, and I went to visit Santa Maria in Trestevere. Mike explained that the fourth century church claims to have been the first to be dedicated to Mary and she is featured prominently in the gilded depiction on the facade above the portico. Although, the church is among the oldest in Rome and consequently an important historic site, I found myself interested in the confessionals inside.

I found this piece of paper on one of the confessionals. The text appears to have two confessional prayers that can be read to the priest to initiate penance. The first is addressed to God and the second to Jesus (also, God by way of transubstantiation). Apparently, if you are not sure how you should properly begin to ask forgiveness because you are too distraught with your sins or simply nervous you are allowed to use this cheat-sheet. All kidding aside, I do have to wonder how it is actually used. That is, if giving a formal prayer to initiate penance is expected at St. Mary's in Trestevere or if it is an optional formality. There was no similar sheet on the confessionals in St. Maria Liberatrice in Testaccio, so the need to begin confession with this specific formal prayer is probably not a church edict in Rome. Nevertheless, there is some sort of expectation and some set of norms for how one begins confession. In the US we tend to think of this as the brief statement, "Father, forgive me for I have sinned..." I have to wonder if this sheet is bearing the Italian equivalent. That is, if there is one.

In order to determine if the the prayer was a recognizable Catholic standard, I made a half-hearted attempt at translating it using a combination of Babelfish and an Italian-English dictionary. After getting a couple lines down and then searching them in quotes on Google, I did not find anything. There are a lot of Catholic prayers, so this does not necessarily mean anything. Additionally, this particularly prayer may have been authored by the church officials involved with St. Mary's in Trestevere and thus might not be recognized more widely by the Catholic Church.

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